Good strategies don’t implement themselves

Mon, 04/09/2017 - 09:43

But without a driver? They are stunning front yard ornaments and not much more.
The point is, a race car can’t drive itself and thus can’t realise its awesome potential and neither can good strategy.

For all the hours invested in developing strategy, all too often, they don’t work. So what stops a great plan from reaching effective implementation?

Here are some reasons why good strategies just fail to hit the mark.


The failure to articulate a strategy is often times one of the main reasons it doesn’t manifest. People can’t implement or support something they don’t know about or understand.
And unless you are Superman/woman, you can’t implement effective strategy alone. Strategies tend to require people power and harnessing several different talents to achieve the end objective. Without a unified team, all pulling in the same direction, you essentially go nowhere fast.
Poor communication among team members means decisions either can’t be made or the wrong ones are made. Expectations and opinions are not shared effectively.
So, your strategic plan needs a communications plan. Every tactical action supporting the strategic objectives needs to be included so the strategy is reinforced. 
Communication along the way is also critical. People left in the dark can’t see where they are going and thus have little motivation to keep ploughing forward. Milestones, updates, achieving progress – how is this being handled amongst the stakeholders who need to… drive the car?


There are books upon books upon books on how to be an effective leader. An unfocused or unclear leader results in improper resource allocation, lack of buy-in, poor follow-through, inadequate checks, misaligned goals/strategies/actions (pick one or all!). It’s all doom and gloom really if you don’t get the leadership aspect right.
There’s also a tendency to throw one poor “Leader Lamb” to the slaughter. Leadership on a Strategy is very rarely a one person position. Lack of ability or willingness from other employees who are needed to step up and lead individual aspects and bring strategies from paper to production is also key.
Bottom line? We are called to lead from wherever we are, in whatever position, even if we are not at the top.

Great idea but no plan

This for me is a doozy. Strategies can often dazzle with amazing graphs, witty insights and beautiful powerpoint presentations. The idea looks, sounds and smells amazing. But underneath it? There’s no actual clear plan of how to go about realising that plan.
Calling something a “strategy” doesn’t make it one.
The ultimate requirement of a strategy for me comes in the implementation plan part of it. What needs to be done day by day to actually implement this? How are we going to measure if it’s working? What do we do it it’s not?
Strategic plans have to have specific tasks that need to be done. Breaking it down into doable actions gives a literal strategic to-do list to ensure it actually impacts and delivers upon its golden idea.

Passive Happiness

The sweat that goes into strategy and the effort that goes into a task plan means there can be a certain strategic exhaustion at some stage. YAY! We have a stunning strategy… we have an excellent milestone plan… job done.
There’s this horribly dangerous assumption that things will run themselves after they get started, which is about as likely as being hit by lightning while being eaten by a shark. 
Strategic implementation is rather like keeping plates spinning atop a number of pointed sticks. If you don’t keep a close eye on them, give them a nudge every now and then to keep it spinning, the plates will fall down and you don’t want to know where the sticks end up.
The implementation phase of strategy calls for clear task management, follow through, action assessments, individual accountability.

Personal Ownership

The “what’s in it for me” troll is alive and well and stomping around pretty much every business in the world to a greater or lesser extent. This doesn’t mean we are all greedy, selfish, self-serving assholes, but what it does mean is that we are all looking for meaning in what we do.
I believe employees want to show up for more than just a paycheque. We want to build something and have an impact, be valued for our input.
This ties straight back into good communication. If I don’t understand the purpose, I can’t buy into the goal, the strategic vision disappears and there is zero enthusiasm to make it happen.
Effort has to be made to help people up and down the line, understand how getting behind a strategic goal will support their personal goals. A project will never succeed if there is no emotion or passion involved.

So, how are good strategies implemented?

Pay attention to personal ownership and internal motivations, communicate like crazy, be sure there is a solid and clear plan behind that great idea, get involved from start to finish and pinpoint those effective leaders and you have a better than average chance of hitting the mark.
And remember, however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results!

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